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Expertise

April 29, 2020

I truly enjoy the amount of sharing that goes on in the trumpet community.  Going to the National Trumpet Competition and the International Trumpet Guild convention are regularly highlights of my year.  In those settings, I’m around so many trumpet players, trumpet teachers, trumpet makers, as well as composers, arrangers, and publishers.  By far, most of the people seem to be doing the same thing I am:  checking out what everyone else has to offer.

That being said, what everyone has to offer is not equal.  With all of us trumpet players at home over the last couple of months, there’s been a lot more activity online, both performing and teaching.   I’ve covered some of this ground before, but I think it’s worth revisiting.  Today what I’d like to focus on is expertise.

If you follow me on any online format, you might notice that I don’t offer direction on religion or politics (on these two subjects, I don’t discuss them online at all).  You also might notice I don’t tell people what to think about nuclear physics, architecture, botany, or combinatorics (although I do wonder what it would have been like if Pascal could have met Euler…that would have been cool).  There’s a reason: I have no expertise in these areas.

Now, before you start telling me how everyone is allowed their own voice, and entitled to their own opinion (part of which I covered here:  You’re Not Always Entitled to Your Opinion), how those opinions are communicated is important.

I certainly have opinions, strong ones, about many things.  For example, I believe wearing socks with sandals is just NOT OKAY.  My wife and daughters all disagree- and continue to wear the hideous combination.  I believe that basketball is, by far, the best sport to watch and to play.  I don’t understand why anyone watches car racing…or plays soccer.  I believe toilet paper should ALWAYS be over the top, not under the bottom.  These are serious, strong opinions that I have, and will happily argue with you about…for long periods of time.

What we do not have is our own facts.  No matter what anyone says, the trumpet is not a string instrument.  There are people out there that continue to confuse opinion and fact.  Recently, on FaceBook, someone I went to high school with put up an article that was not true.  So I put up a few articles showing her that what she put up was verifiably false.  After a little back and forth, she wrote that we could agree to disagree.  I wrote back that we could disagree on opinions, but not on facts.  After that, she wrote that she didn’t care that what she put up was false.  This is not okay.

What I’m concerned about now is people either:

  1. Offering their opinion as fact, and/or
  2. Don’t care about facts at all.

Here’s why I’m bringing this up.  With everyone at home, there seems to be a flood…avalanche…tsunami…well, just a lot of people jumping online to tell you: 1) how great they are, and 2) what you should be doing.  Here’s my overarching message for today (and yes, I realize that I am now telling you what to do):

BE DISCERNING!

When you’re online checking out what people are writing and playing, please take a second to ask if this is worth your time.  There is a lot of good information out there.  And there have been some really spectacular performances (if you haven’t seen Matthias Höfs video entitled “Trumpet Excerpts-Fantasy”- go to YouTube right now and check it out…I’ve never met Mr. Höfs, but I am a fan).  There are also lots of other people sharing what they happen to be up to.

Let me make this very clear: I am not looking to dissuade anyone from sharing what they’re doing.  What I want is for everyone to take a second to think about whether what you’re watching or reading is worth your time.  Here are some guidelines that could help.  First, let’s talk about teaching.

Does it sound too good to be true?

Trumpet pedagogy is more art than science, so watch out for people offering miracles.  If someone tells you they can solve any and/or all of your trumpet problems without hearing or seeing you play, please keep scrolling.

Is this someone I should trust?

It’s not hard to do a little bit of homework to find out about the person posting.  If there’s no teaching experience, no track record of pedagogy, no record of success…there’s no reason to keep going.

Is it about you…or them?

Teaching is much more about giving than taking.  If you run across people telling you what you need to do for them, those aren’t teachers.

The playing side might be more difficult.  It’s possible to find anyone on a bad day, and think you’re really cool by posting Player X sounding bad.  That’s not okay.  That’s just mean.  I will admit, there are videos people have posted of themselves that I have found quite amusing (even though that was not their intent) that I have watched and shared with my friends.  And that’s okay.  My general rule on this is simple: if you post a video of your playing, it’s fair game.

There are people doing innovative, creative, high level performances for us online.  I am not surprised that the music community continues to find a way to share art under difficult circumstances.  Enjoy it!  But, again, just because it’s online, even in a pretty package, doesn’t mean it’s worth your time.  As you listen to more and more people, ask yourselves:

Would I Pay to See This?

I use this with my students.  After a performance of an etude, I will ask:  if you were looking for a performance of that etude, would you buy what you just played?  If the answer is no…then you still have work to do.

The amount of free content available means that there is no quality control.  This is where you come in.  There are people out there that have gotten good at technology and marketing…but maybe not so much at the trumpet or music.  But with their skills, they get a lot of people to watch, and with a lot of views, they become tacitly accepted as “good.”  Then you see more and more of their stuff.

There are experts out there.  But they’re getting harder and harder to find.  Because of that, more and more bad information is not just getting “out there” but is not being challenged because of its prevalence.  I’m not willing to accept this.

Continue to seek out experts.  These are the people that are devoting large parts of their lives for the betterment of what we do.  This is why when I see something I like, I subscribe.  I’m trying, in my own small way, to raise the bar.  Please join me.

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. Yes. You’re right on the spot. Same problem in other countries/ languages.


  2. Joey – well done and very thoughtful as usual!

    It made me think of an experience last week.

    I reposted a thoughtful article from the Atlantic or somewhere in favor of experts, and against “know-it-alls”. Really good.

    However, one of my friends came out of the woodwork incensed by this article and was actually weighing in .. in favor and support of know-it-alls.

    I shoulda known better!

    He said something like criticizing the “”czars” and when I let him know that no… experts are not czars .. czars are bad .. & “that’s why there are no Romanovs in today’s world”, he called me a communist!

    As if being “against czars globally” somehow makes you “for communists”.

    Crazy stuff.

    So .. I did what any good bolshevik would do,I de-friended him, deleted my original post , and put a new one out there simply saying … hey FB universe, post deleted. Sorry.

    And “lighten up Francis”

    Keep it coming Joey, love your stuff!

    -Mike

    No Joey , I am not making this up.



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